I recently had a quick conversation with my boss at work. We usually discuss a diverse set of topics, ranging from work-related concepts to life lessons to even our personal opinions on classic films (we both have a fondness for Scorsese). As someone starting out in the corporate world, I always found his insight helpful.
But the one topic that stuck in my mind long after our brief discussion was the idea of being professional, not in the sense of being knowledgeable at a certain field, but in the sense of exhibiting proper conduct when interacting with other people. This is exhibited in many ways: good grooming, appropriate attire, punctuality, and attitude among other things. Our discussion gravitated on the last point.
Attitude may not seem like the most readily obvious indication of being a professional, but in reality, it’s arguably the most crucial as it is the easiest to see and hardest to hide. It manifests in everyday life. You see it in conversations whether a person is rude or courteous, or even in their work ethic if they submit timely or if they respond to inquiries.
This was not something I paid particular attention to when I was in college. As a student, I always presumed that with any shortcoming I might have had when dealing with administrators, leaders, or even professors, I can always use being a student as an alibi. My mindset at the time was that these kinds of moments were few and far between—in any other instance, I didn’t need to be that professional.
However, after being exposed to workplace culture for the past few years, I realized that this was perhaps an important lesson lost on me during my college days, and a lesson I try to impart to others now.
As my discussion with my boss progressed, it became clear that while he said nothing about our attitudes to people who underperform, he does mind when it catches the attention of others. But I also thought to myself that there must be exceptions. It’s inevitable, I argued, that we would find people we would not get along with.
He countered that while you need not be friends with the people you work with, it is important that in a professional setup, you remain professional. In short, you cannot justify being rude to someone if they are underperforming because that will backfire on you, and they will question your conduct instead.
Truth be told, this fact stuck with me because it rings true. In our childhood days, we are taught by our parents and teachers that we must always been kind to others even if they to do not reciprocate the kindness. While it may seem tough, it does show the kind of character a person possesses if they can keep a level head even in the worst cases.
As Lasallians, we must be aware that we carry the school’s name wherever we go, especially when we enter the workplace, whether we like it or not. During a discussion I had with one of our managers a few months back, he mentioned that one of the senior executives noticed that employees who graduated from certain schools tend to stay in the company for a much shorter time than others. While I don’t agree with his sentiment, it does speak volumes how the actions of a few can become representative of the school as a whole.
Leaders of student organizations or even the top officials in the administration are expected in some way to abide by some code of conduct befitting their roles. As leaders, they represent the best of us, or at least what we should all aspire to be. For them, being professional is part of the job—it is a requirement, not a formality.
It is important to remember that these are not things we learn in classrooms but are instead habits that we build up over the years. It is not enough that we know what the right thing to do is; we must also live by it and act in accordance to what is right.
Being professional is not just an act; it is a way of living.